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Daily Evacuation Brief | April 2, 2022
LAST 24 HOURS:
Both Russia and China made statements concerning potential recognition of the IEA after the regional foreign ministers’ meeting in China concluded. While Turkey and a few other states have also signaled support for recognition, recent hardline laws restricting individual freedoms and further limiting women’s rights have moved NATO and the majority of the international community further from joining these calls. Sino-Russian support both curries favor with the IEA, allows China and Russia to play a contrarian role with the US and NATO.
The Taliban released a US citizen and a green card holder who had been held in detention since late last year.
A video surfaced of Mark Frerichs, an American who has been held captive by the Haqqani Network since January 2020. In the video, he pleads for his release by asking the Taliban authorities directly. This is the first video evidence that Mr. Frerichs is alive in quite some time.
There are reports of an ambush of a Taliban convoy in Hesarak, Panjshir. However, we have been unable to verify the veracity of the claims.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
Sources stated that both the Kandahari and Haqqani factions of the Taliban will be cautioned about excessive use of violence for the duration of Ramadan as Taliban leaders desire a peaceful season. Internal memos are expected to be released.
Security presences in Herat and Panjshir are expected to be elevated for the next two weeks in response to the bombing and reported clashes in Panjshir. Travel will be difficult in and around these areas. We also expect security elsewhere to be increased.
Who’s Who in the Taliban (Part 1: The Factions)
Who are the Taliban’s key players? The Afghan Digest often highlights the divisions among the Taliban and the possible long-term effects of a divided regime. As divisions intensify and hardliners gain power, it’s useful to breakdown what is known about the main factions and the primary players in Taliban leadership.
Part 1 focuses on the key factions. Part 2 will provide background on some of the individuals leading the Taliban, as well as analysis of how the divide will affect the regime going forward. This information is by no means exhaustive.
Most experts divide the Taliban into three primary factions: the moderates (AKA the Kandahari Taliban, the political wing, etc.), the conservatives (AKA the hardliners, the military wing etc.), and the Haqqani Network. These three divisions do not always have clear lines, and plenty of Taliban members do not identify with these three groups, instead having loyalties to regional commanders. However, most Taliban leadership are old guard whose loyalties are tied strongly to a specific faction, which renders these three groups as the primary players in Taliban power politics.
In addition to these three overarching groups, there are a number of sub-groups operating loosely. There are ideological divides between old guard and new guard, civilians and fighters, religious leaders and political leaders, and Pashtun and non-Pashtun Taliban. This analysis will focus on the three primary Taliban factions.
Key Leadership: The moderate, political wing is led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban who led peace negotiations with the US. He previously ran the Taliban’s political office in Doha alongside Sher Mohammed Stanekzai, who is also in this faction.
Background: This group tends to promote more moderate domestic policies and encourage involvement from the international community. Almost all members from the former peace negotiation and political team tend to fall into this group, as do many Taliban of the younger generation. They supported many of the previous regime’s achievements and desired to preserve those, even if that meant strategically retaining some of the government’s old infrastructure. Some did not even believe the tricolor flag necessarily needed to be replaced.
Although this group has been the most prominent face of the Taliban in recent years because of their public role, they are widely perceived as the weakest group, given their relatively minor positions in the Taliban’s cabinet and decreasing control of policymaking. The international community expected this group to be more powerful in the new regime as Mullah Baradar was seen as the figurehead of the Taliban. However, the conservative faction, in particular Mullah Yaqoob, made it clear that those who had lived in luxury in Doha during the insurgency would not be allowed to rule over the Taliban members who had been actively involved in jihad. Moderate leaders now primarily serve as deputies to more conservative figures or lead humanitarian and economic ministries, which are perceived as less important.
Affiliation: The moderates are primarily southern and southeastern Pashtuns, especially those in the Durrani tribal confederation. Their base covers the Greater Kandahar area including Kanadhar and Helmand. This group has ties to the ISI and the Pakistani government, but they are not close allies.
Key Leadership: The conservative, military wing is led by Defense Minister Molavi Mohammad Yaqoob, the eldest son of former Taliban Emir Mullah Mohammad Omar. Current Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada also belongs to this group and is widely seen as basing his ruling philosophy on Mullah Omar. Prime Minister Mohammad Hasan Akhund is also considered a conservative.
Background: This is the most powerful faction of the Taliban given their senior positions, both in regard to their actual rank in the government and their respect based on the longevity of their involvement with the group. This faction is primarily comprised of battle-hardened insurgent fighters, former leaders from the 1990s regime, and even mujahideen fighters from Soviet times. A handful of conservative lawmakers and jurists, such as Mullah Akhundzada, are also in this group.
Despite being most powerful, this group’s influence was comparatively latent until the last few weeks when they began flexing their muscles. With the world distracted by Ukraine, they took advantage of their control of the government and began to implement more hardline policies. These policies include banning foreign media and girls from school. This group is generally not deeply concerned with international engagement and focuses more on regional diplomacy.
Affiliation: This group’s support is primarily based in the south, where Minister Yaqoob has gained the loyalty of local Taliban and the Haqqani remain unpopular. They are most closely tied in with the Pashtun Ghilzai tribe. They have deeper ties with the ISI than the moderates. Although they are not generally directly supporting regional terrorist groups like al-Qaeda the TTP, and the ETIM, they can be counted on to turn a blind eye to their proliferation.
Key Leadership: The Haqqani Network, which was previously only loosely associated with the Taliban due to their extreme nature, is led by Minister of the Interior Sirajuddin Haqqani.
Background: The Haqqanis are the second most powerful faction of the Taliban, although they have an outsized influence due to their strong fighters and close relationship with Pakistan. They are believed to have over 6,000 cadres in Kabul alone; whether this is to maintain order for the regime at large or intimidate other factions of the Taliban is unclear.
This group is by far the most radical. Not only do they support ultra-conservative domestic policies, but the network is made up of active terrorists who are directly culpable for the majority of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan since 2001. Although they have existed since the 1970s, they only swore loyalty to the Taliban in 1995. In recent years, they have become increasingly sophisticated and effective, in part due to their extensive experience.
Affiliation: This group is primarily comprised of Eastern Pashtuns, particularly the Zadran Union of Free and Militant Tribes. Although they have operated heavily in Pakistan over the years, their presence now appears to be focused in Paktia and surrounding areas. They claim to control the “Eastern lobby” in these areas. The Haqqanis are backed by the ISI, although the Pakistani government more broadly remains skeptical.
Afghani to the Dollar: $1 – 88.55 AFN (as of 2 APR 2022)
By Zachary Basu – Axios
An American citizen and his brother who were detained in Afghanistan since Dec. 18 have been…
By ANI News
At least 12 people were killed and 25 others wounded on Afghanistan's Western province of Herat on Friday…
By Radio Free Europe
The Taliban's control over Afghan society has limited travel for women, who are now only allowed to take a journey accompanied by…
Chaired by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi the third foreign ministers' meeting among the…
By Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the US
In response to a reporter's question about whether China considers diplomatic recognition of the Afghan Taliban's Interim Government, Wang Yi said that diplomatic recognition is a key concern of the…
By Fars News
Takht Ravanchi made the remarks at a virtual UN donor conference co-hosted by Britain, Germany…
Around ninety Afghan citizens have recently arrived in Lithuania and North Macedonia.
The United Nations, Britain, Germany and Qatar pledged $ 2.4 billion in international aid to the Afghan people.
The Daily WTF
By Mohammed Rasool – VICE
The Taliban’s top leadership has ordered women to stay at home and not go to work, an internal memo from the…